Have you ever watched a sport where one of your favorite players goes down with some injury that takes them out of the arena for a significant time? I have, and I also am a competitor who has sat on the sideline due to injury. The road back to the big stage is different for everyone. Some people bounce back without a problem, and others seem to have more ups and downs with the recovery.
While looking at the two sides of the issue has caused me to reflect on my preparation for a return to competition after surgery. As an athlete, you must be physically and mentally ready to return. You can often be prepared for action when your doctor clears you. However, if you are not mentally prepared, it can result in a few scenarios. Such as a decrease in confidence leading to a decline in performance. Feelings of stress and anxiety, re-injury, and fear of injury or competition.
One thing that helps me is being honest about how my body feels. Having an accurate picture of where you are physically is your baseline. With this, you can game plan for any rehab to increase your sport-specific performance. Whatever your sport may be, using the mental strategy of incorporating imagery in this phase of your return can be a help. To see yourself being successful is vital. This self-actualization will drive a belief in your ability to complete your goals.
I mentioned being honest with yourself about your rehab, which is very important. As an older competitor, I can quickly create an image of my younger self as the competitor and do myself a disservice for performance accountability.
As we age, we can still be as competitive as our younger selves, but we must also account for the changes in physicality that naturally happens. What level of change depends on the athlete, the sport, and if there was an injury and the type of injury they are recovering from. One way to breathe fresh into your re-emergence is incorporating goal setting in your recovery and preparation. From a range of motion and strength to explosiveness and timing. You can also set sports-specific performance goals like running or the efficiency of my movement in my sparring rounds for Jui-Jitsu. Doing so will allow your coaches and yourself to track your improvement.
I hope these little tips on returning to competition can help all who may have reservations about their ability to get back at it. I will be holding myself to these points and will be embracing the warrior that I am this go around. I am looking forward to the journey that it will set me on.